Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Girlfriends… it’s really light in my bedroom. I don’t say that to elicit a giggle. Get your minds out of the gutter.
We have southern exposure and no blackout blinds. I live in downtown Vancouver. As such, I can almost read a book…. At 2 am with the lights out in my bedroom… full moon or not.
Sure we have a great apartment but unfortunately it comes with those shitty white bottom of the barrel blinds. These are the crappy white lever blinds that come with most standard apartments in the downtown.
Make no mistake, I love it that these blinds are my key to privacy. I close the blinds and my neighbour can’t see me when I walk around my bedroom in my underwear. Yes, I understand that all things come at a cost but is it so much to ask that I get a set of drapes that black out the light and prevent me from having my very own underwear based You-Tube video?
Me and my shitty blinds have pretty much reached the end of our relationship. I need me some black out blinds.
I am tired (excuse the pun) of sleeping in a room that is lit up like Times Square.
I am tired of sleeping with a sleep mask on my face at all times.
I am tired of walking to the washroom in BROAD DAYLIGHT at 3 in the morning.
This really has become a problem.
You see, I really like to sleep in a cave. I like to get out of bed in the middle of the night and fumble to find the bathroom. I like to trip over things and want for a night light because it is so dark in the room.
My time spent travelling and staying in hotels allows me to see how the darker half lives. On the down side of course is bed bugs…. On the up side is the black-out blinds.
Yes my cybersisters I will risk the threat of vermin for the sake of not having to wear another one of those “sleepytime masks” with the word “Princess” scrolled across the front in glued on rhinestones.
Most people don’t sleep well in hotels. They talk about how the room is foreign to them and how they miss their own bed, their own room and their own pillow.
Me? Sure, I miss the familiarity of it all, but I welcome the dark.
You see our brains are pretty specific when it comes to being influenced by light.
We all have a biological clock in our brains that help to regulate our sleep and wake cycles and other key physiological systems that allow us to live in harmony with our natural surroundings such as day and night and the changing of the seasons.
This is same system that helps to tell us when we are sleepy or awake. It is the same system that gets “off kilter” when we travel and suffer from jet lag for example.
The most important function of a biological clock is to regulate certain biological rhythms like the sleep/wake cycle. The biological clock is also involved in controlling seasonal reproductive cycles in some animals through its ability to track information about the changing lengths of daylight and darkness during a year.
There are two types of biological rhytms. Exogenous rhythms are directly produced by an external influence, such as an environmental cue. (think time of day). These are not generated internally by the organism itself, and if the environmental cues are removed, the rhythm ceases. For example put someone in a dark room for days on end and they will eventually lose their usual day/night cycle.
Endogenous rhythms, by contrast, are driven by an internal, self-sustaining biological clock rather than by anything external to us. Biological rhythms like changes in core body temperature, are endogenous. They are maintained even if environmental cues are removed.
Humans have a circadian rhythm that has a natural day length of just over 24 hours. This “clock” needs to be reset to match the length of day for what is called the “environmental photoperiod”.
This is the amount of daylight in a 24 hour period. As you can imagine the body’s internal clock goes haywire in times where day and night are prolonged. For example- move to the arctic in the summer where the daylight last for 20 or so hours and you have a problem with your internal clock.
The cue that synchronizes the internal biological clock to the environmental cycle is light. Photoreceptors in the retina (the back of the eye) transmit light-dependent signals to a blace in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is an area that sits right on top of the optic nerve behind the eye. Drill a hole between your eye and your ear straight into the brain and you are there. I don’t mean to be gross or dramatic but it’s the visual I’m after.
Interestingly, our usual visual system receptors, the rods and cones, are apparently not required for this photoreception.9This mean that even some blind people still have a sense of a biological clock.
Special types of retinal ganglion cells are photoreceptive and project directly to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and appear to have all the properties required to provide the light signals for synchronizing the biological clock.3 At the suprachiasmatic nucleus the signal interacts with several genes that serve as “pacemakers.”
A study published in Neuroscience Letters in 1986 exposed 8 healthy controls to bright light starting at 6 am and ending at 9am. These people were monitored for their sleep patterns for 10 days at first and in rooms where the light gradually became lighter at around 6am and progressed until 9 am. This had little effect on their day/night cycle.
The study then went on and exposed the same subjects to a bright light at 6am. Within 7 days the day/night cycle of these subjects was significantly altered. All subjects would now wake up at just before 6am almost as if they had anticipated the “light wake up call”.
Girlfriends- I’m a shitty sleeper at the best of times but I will bet my suprachiasmatic nucleus that my lack of black out blinds has something to do with it.
Now if you will excuse me, I must go… Barry from Levalor Blinds is coming over today to fit my bedroom window with some serious hardware and a blackout blind for the ages.
Look out my girlfriends… I feel a serious nap coming on.